Conference Fragments – A Crisis Not of Debt, but Unemployment
Conference is nothing new to me, last weekend’s in Birmingham being my 10th (makes me feel very old at 22!) but this one I expected to be different, being our first with an MP. Unfortunately I couldn’t arrive until after Caroline and Wales Leader Jake’s speeches but I heard they were both very good.
The Saturday seemed to be themed on cuts and economic issues in general. Since 2009 in particular the party has recognised that we need to present our policies in a way which is relevant to people’s everyday concerns. As many have said, you can’t expect people to be concerned about climate change when they’re worried about their job, home or children’s schools. We’ve always been about far more than the environment, but we haven’t been very good at articulating it before.
Greens were the only party in the election saying that the insane cuts being pushed through by the new government were unnecessary, and now even the IMF is backing our side of the debate. We’ve always been opposed to privatisation, Norwich Greens pledged to bring outsourced Council services back in-house in their by elections last week, and we hosted Billy Hayes from CWU, who is fighting against privatisation of his own industry.
With the increasingly unsettling surge to the right of Clegg, his approach now horribly vindictive once you read into his comments, it is clear that we need a coherent and consistent economic narrative. Caroline said the cuts were “economically illiterate” in her speech, a phrase I love and think we should use a lot more. Adrian also slammed the cuts and made the case for investment brilliantly.
But I also believe that we’ve been presenting slighting confused arguments at times, and I think this is a reflection of my belief that economics is the most controversial area of policy in the party. We’ve been mostly adopting a Keynsian approach, but have at times talked about ‘good cuts’ such as Trident which buttress the analysis of the few remaining deficit hawks. Some in the party view a Keynsian approach as incompatible with aim of steady state economics.
I for one believe that as a party we need to be hammering the message that our crisis is not one of debt, but unemployment, but we need to take a step back and come to a consensus about what it is exactly we are proposing in way that doesn’t tow the agenda of the right. Finally, a personal achievement for me was that I came to this conference and engaged in it far more confident in my economic beliefs than when I first approached the matter at Swansea Conference in 2007. I believe that few people in any party really engage with the arguments in any depth, and we need to encourage our memebrs to do so if we are to build a strong counter-narrative.